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Improving welfare leads to higher herd performance

Measures to improve animal welfare on hog farms can improve — rather than jeopardize — economic performance of herds, scientists have discovered.

Scientists from Newcastle University and Ghent University found that pig health, welfare and production performance are all linked across farming systems.

And they said the potential to drive productivity and make larger economic gains means that improving animal welfare should become the focus for hog producers.

In study published in the journal Frontiers by PROHEALTH — Europe’s largest-ever project working to combat pig production diseases — researchers collected data on pig performance and assessed levels of biosecurity across 28 breeding and 40 fattening herds on 46 UK farms.

By comparing the information with industry-held data pig health and welfare, they identified several potential links between health, welfare, performance and biosecurity across UK herds.

“The initial correlation analysis showed that the prevalence of lameness and severe tail lesions was associated with the prevalence of enzootic pneumonia-like lesions and pyaemia (blood poisoning),” said lead researcher Fanny Pandolfi of Newcastle University.

“[Also] the prevalence of severe body marks was associated with several disease indicators, including peritonitis and milk spots.

“Higher average daily weight gain was associated with lower prevalence of pleurisy, but no connection was identified between mortality and health indicators.”

Further analysis of the farms suggests those with lower biosecurity scores had higher prevalence of health issues such as peritonitis.

However, while farms with higher biosecurity had higher average daily gains, they did not always see lower levels of mortality, suggesting mortality results from a number of factors.

“The study suggests a smaller impact of biosecurity on issues such as mortality, prevalence of lameness, and pig requiring hospitalization,” Pandolfi added.

“The correlations and the identified clusters suggested the importance of animal welfare for the pig industry.”

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Posted on September 17, 2018


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High mortality in nursery pigs is often seen in herds positive for the PRRS virus, but can vaccination of viremic neonatal pigs — pigs carrying the virus — help reduce mortality when they go to the nursery?

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